The Many Different Types of Car Shampoos – The Ultimate Guide

The Many Different Types of Car Shampoos – The Ultimate Guide

A clean and shining car is the dream of every car owner and auto-detailer. While there are tons of car cleaning products available in the market, car washing shampoos and soaps remain irreplaceable. By the team you read this article, thousands of car wash shampoos from twelve different grades will already be sold to dedicated car owners and detailers.

As a responsible car owner, the safety and pristine look of your beloved vehicle shall be among your list of top-priorities. The debate on what type of car shampoos/soaps are good and what kind are bad for cars has been a long one.  However, you might be at the verge of finding answers to your pressing questions related to car shampoos and soaps after reading this article.

Car Shampoo Industry is Growing Massively

Every year, a passionate and dedicated car owner spends thousands on car cleaning supplies. The trend of washing cars by using proper supplies has become so much popular that car owners spend $5 billion annually only on car wash products. Over the last 20 years, the awareness on proper car washing techniques and supplies has changed the lives of many.

On top of that, auto detailers and car wash experts are coming up with new car care supply formulas almost every month. All of these factors are contributing to the rising trend of using the best car wash supplies such as car wash shampoos and soaps to get that sleek, shiny and clean look of beloved vehicles.

Things Have Changed For All Of Us

You will be interested and not surprised to know that car wash shampoos and soaps were virtually classified as the same thing about 20 years ago. The laymen and auto detailers used the term “degreasing agents” to define a vast range of car shampoos and soaps. With time, the addition of Carnauba for improved lubrication during car washing cycle was done by many car owners and automotive detailers.

Time has changed now. The minute you step in the market, you can find more than half a dozen different categories of car wash shampoos and soaps. Most of these grades are sorted on the base of application type, formulation differences and general nature of the car cleaning action.

Basics of Car Wash Shampoos and Soaps

Undoubtedly, such a wide range of car shampoo and soap grades is intimidating enough to baffle experienced buyers and new buyers alike.

Thus, the questions arise: What do you need to know before picking up a car shampoo/soap? How do different car shampoos, dish wash shampoos and car wash soaps differ from each other?

Fortunately, this blog will tell you all you need to know to get started on your next car wash supplies shopping spree with complete knowledge and confidence.

Why Do You Need a Car Wash Shampoo?

The answer is obvious: To clean your car! Although this question may seem straightforward, a number of considerations are associated with it. In reality, car wash shampoos and soaps are more defined on the basis of how good they are at delivering the desired result rather than sticking to the job of cleaning the car. In the past, car wash shampoos and soaps were formulated and used for the sake of removing dirt, grime, dust, debris and every other type of physical curd from the vehicle. However, things have changed now and the categorization of car shampoos is done one following basis:

  • Specific task or a combination of specific tasks performed by car shampoo
  • Extent of removal of specific types of stains such as acidic and sticky bird droppings, tree sap and debris
  • Level of car paint and shine protection offered by car shampoo
  • Eco-friendliness and vehicle-friendliness of the car shampoo

Two Rules for Determining your Car Shampooing Needs

Modern car detailers and automotive maintenance experts have charted the rules of determining your car shampoo needs down to two rules:

  • The Elbow Print Rule that determines the level of grease input on the car surface. Cleaner cars show a high grease input.
  • The Dilution Ratio Rule for using car wash shampoo and soap. Highly diluted car wash solutions are determinants of a car that requires less cleaning. You will have to use concentrate the washing solution if you want to remove sticky debris.

A Look Back in the History of Car Shampoos

Auto-specific shops and car shampoos did not surface in the automotive care market until 1960. Understandably, brands like Turtle Wax, Johnson & Johnson were the frontline manufacturers of automotive-specific car shampoos. Customers could visit the car service stations and buy five-gallon buckets of the soap of their choice.

In 1970s, this trend changed and the local auto part stores and speed shops initiated the sales of consumer-grade car wash shops. However, many people could not afford these products due to expensive price tags.

Consumers preferred to use the Tidy laundry detergents in 5 gallon buckets to clean their cars rather than spending too much money on consumer grade automotive soaps. However, this practice wreaked havoc on car waxes, car paints and led to formation of water spots and streaks on car’s exterior.

The problem was reported and eventually the automotive segment started new initiatives to formulate the auto-specific car wash shampoos and soaps. Ever since the formulation of auto-specific soaps and shampoos in late 70s and early 80s, the creation of such shampoos and soaps accelerated.

Up until 2010, more action-specific car shampoo formulations hit the automotive market and around the same time, the advent of eCommerce took place.

eCommerce Revolutionized the Car Shampoo Market

Fairly enough, the formation and popularity of eCommerce led to more market exposure of auto-specific shampoos and soaps. Many industries began to participate in the auto-specific shampoo eCommerce and many of them made a lot of profit.

Till the date, more than half a dozen types of automotive shampoos and car wash soaps are available in the marked.

Types of Task-Specific Car Wash Shampoos

Here are the major types of task-specific car wash shampoos available in the market:


Surface Prep / Wax Stripping Shampoos

Car detailers require a clean and wax-free surface to do their magic when it comes to car paint restoration or application. The surface preparation degreasers shampoos have a pH level between 9 and 10. The major function of these alkaline shampoos is to strip off the old layers of wax, deep contaminants and sealant to expose the clear surface that lies below. The car detailers and auto-enthusiasts use such type of shampoos to clean a car before performing other jobs on the car’s bodywork.

Wash and Wax Formulations

The wash and wax car shampoo formulations are among the most common products available in the market. It is usually sold as a 2-in-1 solution for washing vehicles. These car shampoos perform dual functions of removing dirt and debris from the car surface as well as to leave a small layer of on the top of vehicle surface. Thus, you get a clean and shiny car surface upon using wax and wash car shampoo formulations.

Iron Removal / Wheel Cleaning Soaps

Wheel cleaning requires a lot of effort. Luckily, the effort of removing stubborn iron stains is reduced by using wheel cleaning/iron removal car wash soaps. Most of these car soaps are available in the form of spray cleaners and some of them are used as shampoos. Once you apply these shampoos on the wheels of your car, they will remove the dust and debris embedded inside the brake and other ferrous materials. Iron cleaner shampoos have a low pH (acidic) and are sold to car detailers in most cases.

Super Foaming Car Shampoos

About five years ago, car detailers and enthusiasts witnesses the addition of super foaming or super sudsy car shampoos in the car detailing market. Touchless washing techniques are favored by many car owners and washers which is why these super foaming car shampoos became more popular with the increase in trend of using foam gun and foam cannons for touchless car washing.

Since scratching shall be avoided at all costs during car washing, the super sudsy car shampoos are used. These shampoos offer lubrication and effective car washing to eliminate the risks of scratching. Such type of car wash shampoos lifts the dirt and contaminants smoothly without damaging the car surface.

Car Shampoos for Vinyl and PPF

Vinyl coatings and paint protection films require extra care while cleaning. Keeping this in mind, many vinyl manufacturing companies have geared towards formulating Vinyl or PPF car shampoos. These shampoos are specifically formulated for cleaning cars that have paint protection films or vinyl coating on the top of car surface. These shampoos have neutral pH formulas and many contain a sealant or synthetic wax to protect the vinyl or PPF from sunlight damages.

Infused “Ceramic” Car Shampoos

Ceramic coating is the latest technique used in the protection of car paint in new vehicles. Infused Ceramic Car shampoos are looked upon with skepticism by most of the car owners. The reason is that the SiO2 formulations simply do not stick on the car’s surface with cleaning action. SiO2 bond formation needs exposure to oxygen and flashing to stick on a dry surface. However, ceramic coating sprays are nothing like the standard ceramic coatings.

In most cases, these kinds of shampoos contain silicon-based substances which are defined as inorganic ceramic substances which are a part of a wide stretch of Ceramic substance classification.

Maintenance Shampoos for Ceramic Coatings

Ceramic coating maintenance shampoos differ from the infused ceramic shampoos due to the main fact that these shampoos do not apply a new coat of ceramic layer. Instead, ceramic coating maintenance shampoos are used for preserving the ceramic coat that is already present on the car paint. Many car owners who have spent hundreds of dollars on getting ceramic coatings to protect the paint of their cars can use this type of car wash soaps to maintain the ceramic coat.

Ceramic coating maintenance shampoos are pH Neutral and are gentle on the ceramic coated surfaces. Such types of car shampoos do not contain any synthetic or natural wax as it is not needed on the clear coating, ceramic coating, plastic or glass trims.

Keep in Mind: Ceramic coat maintenance shampoos may not be your best shot at maintaining your ceramic layer as they can lead to formation of sticky surface to attach dust and debris on the ceramic coating. The best way to protect your car’s ceramic coating is to use a SiO2 infused boost spray.

Car Wash Shampoos Vs Car Wash Soaps – Is There a Difference?

Many car owners often face confusion in determining the difference between car wash shampoo and car wash soap. The simple answer to this concern is that an automotive shampoo is high-grade car wash soap. The difference between traditional car wash soap and high-quality automotive shampoo is that the shampoo offers superior washing experience with added sensory benefits.

If you clean your car by using a car shampoo, you will instantly enjoy better lubrication, custom colors, fragrances and an overall maximized car washing experience. Car wash shampoos might cost a little bit more but they are a cooler version of car wash soaps.

Choosing the Right Type of Car Wash Product for Your Car

When it comes to washing your car, you shall never practice neglect. May it be car wash products or car wash techniques, everything requires your attention and a lot of research from start till the end of the car wash job. Although the process of choosing a suitable car wash shampoo may seem intimidating in the start, once you get on the right track, things get simpler and easier.

Keeping your vehicle clean can save you from expensive vehicle repairs. If you fail to use a proper car wash shampoo, you risk losing the performance and safety of your car parts due to the accumulation of dust and debris over time. Experts recommend cleaning your regular-use vehicle at least once in a week by using a good quality car wash shampoo or soap.

Instead of wasting your money on expensive car repairs that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, it is a wise idea to invest in a good grade car wash shampoo or soap.

When it comes to car washing products, a range of choices is available including, car wash soaps, car wash shampoos, regular dish wash soaps and even DIY, homemade car wash cleaning solutions.

What type of car wash shampoo/product shall you choose for your car? Here are some factors that can help you in making a good decision:

Cost of Products

Although car washing is an important practice to maintain the performance and look of your vehicle, it shall not be a burden on your pocket. Cost is one of the primary factors to consider when you are thinking about which type of car wash solution you shall go for.

Unlike the misconception that car wash shampoos and soaps cost a hefty sum than regular dishwasher soaps, the car wash soaps and shampoos actually cost a lot lesser. You can get a good grade car wash shampoo or soaps in 1.8 liter packaging for anywhere between $8 to $20. However, the dishwasher soaps will cost you $12 to $22 for the same packaging. Thus, car wash shampoos/soaps are roughly on par with the regular dishwasher soaps when it comes to pricing.

As far as DIY solutions are concerned, the cost mainly depends on what type of materials you will use in it. Most DIY solutions involve the use of Car shampoos or dishwasher soaps in combination with vinegar and baking powder. It means that you will actually pay more for the additional ingredients that are used in DIY solutions.

In other words, you can say that the car wash shampoos and soaps are your best shot to get affordable car cleaning solutions.

Dirt Cleaning Action and Paint Protection

Dirt cleaning and paint protection are two of the vital functions that you must consider while choosing a car cleaning solution.

Regular dishwasher detergents have strong cleaning action and they can easily remove dust, debris, bug splatters and tree sap stains from the surface of your car. Similarly, homemade car cleaning solutions are a good way to remove problematic car stains due to the addition of baking powder and vinegar. Although both of these car wash solutions are better at cleaning stains than car wash shampoos, they do not provide any sort of car paint protection.

Dishwasher detergents have an abrasive nature and they can easily scratch the surface of your car and damage the wax layer. Once the wax layer is gone, your car gets exposed to sunlight damages, more scratches and chips. The same disadvantage holds true for DIY homemade car cleaning solutions. Apart from the abrasive nature of baking powder used in DIY car cleaning solutions, it is almost impossible to maintain the pH Homemade car cleaning solutions.

Car Wash Shampoos and Soaps Are The Way to Wash your Car

The good news is that the expertly-manufactured car cleaning shampoos and soaps are the best way to clean the dirt, debris and contaminants from your car without damaging your car paint. In fact, most of the good grade car cleaning shampoos and soaps protect your car’s exterior surface rather than damaging it.

Thus, your best shot at washing your car without damaging the car paint is to use car wash shampoos and soaps depending upon your preferences. The benefits of car cleaning shampoos and soaps include:

  • Gentles, non-abrasive cleaning action to clean and protect your car
  • Wax and wash cleaning action to clear debris and add a protective layer of wax on the car
  • pH balanced car washing solutions to protect your car’s bodywork
  • Affordable and reliable car cleaning solutions that promise the best shine and cleanliness of your car surface

Tips to Buy the Right Car Wash Shampoo

Go for pH Balanced Car Wash Soaps

pH plays and important role in selection of a safe and effective car wash soap/shampoo. As an everyday consumer, you must not ignore the pH of car wash solutions in order to get the best results. Car wash soaps which have a neutral pH 7 do not pose any threat to the car surface. However, the basic or acidic car wash soaps can lead to abrasive or chemical damages on the car surface. In some cases, car wash soaps with heavy solvents can strip off your paint and sealant layer. It is best to invest a little more in pH neutral car wash soaps and make the most of your safe and effective car washing experience.

Pick a Heavy-Foaming Soap/Shampoo Formula

Another important thing to keep in mind is the foaming formula of the car washing shampoo/soap under consideration. Heavy foaming action will not only loosen the dirt, grease, contaminants and grime but also help in smooth, non-abrasive lifting of contaminants from the surface of your car. You can use a wash pad or a car wash body sponge to clean your car easily by using a lubricating heavy-foaming car wash shampoo.

Choose a Good Manufacturer

In some cases, consumers make the mistake of choosing shady products by infamous manufacturers just to save some bucks. This is not recommended as brand reputation plays a decisive role in choosing a good and safe car wash shampoo for your needs. Consider buying car wash soap and shampoo from a brand who has a good market reputation, posts regular updates, has many recommendations and does not hesitate from addressing your concerns.

The Summary

Car wash shampoos and soaps differ from each other on many levels. There is a broad scope of these car wash products available in the market. Choose a heavy-foaming, pH neutral and non-abrasive car wash shampoo from a reputable manufacturer to get the best results. Remember that car wash shampoos provide car cleaning and protection in a single car wash practice.


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